February 29, 2012

Another shot at No. 1

You may not necessarily can tell by the record, but Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox said his team has improved a great deal heading into Thursday night's game at top-ranked Kentucky (9 p.m., ESPN).

There are some other differences he's noticed, too.

"Well, Marcus Thornton was not playing, that's the biggest difference. We had to play guys in positions that they never thought about playing until he got hurt," Fox said Wednesday. "But now, Marcus is back, Nemi (Djurisic) is more comfortable, more consistent. Certainly, Gerald (Robinson) has played pretty consistently as of late and Donte (Williams) is way different than he was in January, extremely different and we've improved."

At 13-15 overall, 4-10 in the SEC, Georgia is 3-3 in its last six games, with two of the victories over Mississippi State and Florida.

"They're way more confident," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They're shooting the ball extremely well. They're spacing the court and doing much more pick and roll. They're playing off of handoffs, which I've not seen them do before."

The Bulldogs certainly did a lot well in their 76-62 rout of then 11-ranked Florida Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum, just their second over a top-25-ranked team this year and sixth in the Fox era at Georgia.

Fox was asked if the victory over the Gators gave his team an injected of needed confidence.
"A win Thursday (at Kentucky) would give you great confidence," Fox quipped. "But one thing about this team, they haven't stopped the process of trying to get better. They have not discontinued the mission of getting better each day or each week, so any win would help."

There's no doubt a victory over the Wildcats (28-1, 14-0) would qualify as that.

Kentucky has already sewn up the top spot in next week's SEC Tournament in New Orleans and appeared primed for another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

"You're talking about a team that's No. 1 (in the SEC) in scoring, No. 1 field goal percentage, No. 1 in defense, No. 1 in defensive field goal percentage - they've dominated the league," Fox said. "I know Tubby (Smith) had a UK team that went undefeated and the one game they lost this year (against Indiana) was lost when their guy didn't listen and did not foul or this team could be undefeated."

NOTES: Last Saturday against Florida, the Bulldogs outscored an SEC opponent at the free throw line for just the second time this year and shot over 50 percent from the field for just the second time in an SEC game. Defensively, the Bulldogs held Florida to 16 points below its per-game average. … When the week began,

Georgia needed a pair of wins, along with winless weeks from either Arkansas and/or Mississippi State, to finish any higher than 10th place. The Bulldogs will even require help from Auburn -- with which it was tied this week -- to achieve the 10th spot. … Georgia and Kentucky met for the first time this season in Athens 37 days ago. The Wildcats finished first-half scoring with a 10-1 run, breaking open a tight game, en route to a 57-44 victory. Georgia established a tempo it wanted but shot only 34 percent from the field, 28 percent from the 3-point line.